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Celtic Crosses

The raids brought an end to the production of illuminated manuscripts and of monastic metalwork (Joyce 74). Monasteries and shrines for saintly relics were being rebuilt out of stone. A major change in church structures was the erection of “high crosses” of “Celtic crosses.” Built to replace the many older bronze crosses that had been looted or removed, they stood about twenty feet tall. Some were erected to serve as indicators of sacred places, as places of prayer, to record an agreement of an historical happening, and also to teach biblical stories (Joyce 75). They were sculptures with scenes from the Bible and the Lives of the saints. Most are from the tenth century. The most distinctive feature of these crosses is the ring around the junction of the horizontal and vertical bars of the cross. It may be a way to reinforce this point of intersection. However, I believe the Celtic mind and imagination would see more. This circle could represent the sun, a vestige of old Celtic worship, but also a sign of the cosmic Christ. It could also represent a garland of victory for a victorious Christ. It may even be a symbol of the union of creation spirituality, and of redemption spirituality. In the twelfth century, there was another series of Celtic crosses that appeared with the ring being less prevalent and less dramatic (Joyce 77). The second major form of church structure to emerge was the round tower. Possibly being built for protection, they stood as high as one hundred and twenty feet tall. The intention was probably religious, serving as bell towers, or cloicthech (Joyce 77-79).
Last updated on April 15th, 2000.